‘Why is project management important?’ is an interesting question that clients sometimes pose. They’ll ask: “Can’t we just brief the team doing the work and manage them ourselves? It’ll be loads cheaper.”
They wonder if they really need project management because on paper it looks like an unnecessary tax and overhead as project managers don’t really deliver anything and often get in the way of what they want the team to do!
So if all that’s true, why does project management matter?
The truth is, running projects without good project management is a false economy. It’s often thought to be an unnecessary burden on the budget, and there’s no doubt it can be expensive – as much as 20% of the overall project budget.
But can you afford to not have project management?
Without it, what holds the team and client together? And without it, who is left to navigate through the ups and downs, clashes, and catastrophes of projects?
Great project management means much more than keeping project management’s iron triangle in check, delivering on time, budget, and scope; it unites clients and teams, creates a vision for a successful project, and gets everyone on the same page of what’s needed to stay on track for success. When projects are managed properly, there’s a positive impact that reverberates beyond delivery of ‘the stuff’.
Why Is Project Management Important?
1. Strategic Alignment
Project management is important because it ensures what is being delivered, is right, and will deliver real value against the business opportunity.
Every client has strategic goals and the projects that we do for them advance those goals. Project management is important because part of a PM’s duties is to ensure there’s rigor in architecting projects properly so that they fit well within the broader context of our client’s strategic frameworks.
Good project management ensures that the goals of projects closely align with the strategic goals of the business.
In identifying a solid business case, and being methodical about calculating ROI, project management is important because it can help to ensure the right thing is delivered, that’s going to deliver real value.
Of course, as projects progress, it is possible that risks may emerge, that turn into issues, or even the business strategy may change. But a project manager will ensure that the project is part of that realignment. Project management really matters here because projects that veer off course, or which fail to adapt to the business needs may end up being expensive and/or unnecessary.
Project management is important because it brings leadership and direction to projects.
Without project management, a team can be like a ship without a rudder; moving but without direction, control, or purpose. Leadership allows and enables team members to do their best work. Project management provides leadership and vision, motivation, removing roadblocks, coaching, and inspiring the team to do their best work.
Project managers serve the team but also ensure clear lines of accountability. With a project manager in place, there’s no confusion about who’s in charge and in control of whatever’s going on in a project (especially if you’re using a RACI chart or other similar tools). Project managers enforce process and keep everyone on the team in line too because ultimately they carry responsibility for whether the project fails or succeeds.
3. Clear Focus & Objectives
Project management is important because it ensures there’s a proper plan for executing on strategic goals.
Where project management is left to the team to work out by themselves, you’ll find teams work without proper briefs and without a defined project management methodology. Projects lack focus, can have vague or nebulous objectives, and leave the team not quite sure what they’re supposed to be doing, or why.
As project managers, we position ourselves to prevent such a situation and drive the timely accomplishment of tasks, by breaking up a project into tasks for our teams.
Oftentimes, the foresight to take such an approach is what differentiates good project management from bad. Breaking up into smaller chunks of work enables teams to remain focused on clear objectives, gear their efforts towards achieving the ultimate project goal through the completion of smaller steps, and to quickly identify risks since risk management is important in project management.
Often a project’s goals have to change in line with a materializing risk. Again, without dedicated oversight and management, a project could swiftly falter but good project management (and a good project manager) is what enables the team to focus, and when necessary refocus, on their objectives.
4. Realistic Project Planning
Project management is important because it ensures proper expectations are set around what can be delivered, by when, and for how much.
Without proper project management, budget estimates and project delivery timelines can be set that are over-ambitious or lacking in analogous estimating insight from similar projects. Ultimately this means without good project management, projects get delivered late, and over budget.
Effective project managers should be able to negotiate reasonable and achievable deadlines and milestones across stakeholders, teams, and management. Too often, the urgency placed on delivery compromises the necessary steps, and ultimately, the quality of the project’s outcome.
We all know that most tasks will take longer than initially anticipated; a good project manager is able to analyze and balance the available resources, with the required timeline, and develop a realistic schedule. Project management really matters when scheduling because it brings objectivity to the planning.
A good project manager creates a clear process, with achievable deadlines, that enables everyone within the project team to work within reasonable bounds, and not unreasonable expectations.
5. Quality Control
Project management is important because it ensures the quality of whatever is being delivered, consistently hits the mark.
Projects are also usually under enormous pressure to be completed. Without a dedicated project manager, who has the support and buy-in of executive management, tasks are underestimated, schedules tightened and processes rushed. The result is bad quality output because there’s no quality management in place.
Dedicated project management ensures that not only does a project have the time and resources to deliver but also that the output is quality tested at every stage.
Good project management demands gated phases where teams can assess the output for quality, applicability, and ROI. Project management is important to quality because it allows for a staggered and phased process, creating time for teams to examine and test their outputs at every step along the way.
6. Risk Management
Project management is important because it ensures risks are properly managed and mitigated against to avoid becoming issues.
Risk management is critical to project success. The temptation is just to sweep them under the carpet, never talk about them to the client, and hope for the best. But having a robust process around the identification, management, and mitigation of risk is what helps prevent risks from becoming issues. Especially in complex projects, dealing with risk is where the value of project management really comes into play.
Good project management practice requires project managers to carefully analyze all potential risks to the project, quantify them, develop a mitigation plan against them, and a contingency plan should any of them materialize. It requires knowing the right questions to ask in order to uncover risks early.
Naturally, risks should be prioritized according to the likelihood of them occurring, and appropriate responses are allocated per risk (some PMs use a dedicate risk management software for this). Good project management matters in this regard, because projects never go to plan, and how we deal with change and adapt our project management plan is a key to delivering projects successfully.
7. Orderly Process
Project management is important because it ensures the right people do the right things, at the right time – it ensures proper project process is followed throughout the project lifecycle.
Surprisingly, many large and well-known companies have reactive planning processes that aren’t really based around any real project management strategies.
But reactivity – as opposed to proactivity – can often cause projects to go into survival mode. This is when teams fracture, tasks duplicate, and planning becomes reactive creating inefficiency and frustration in the team.
Proper planning and process can make a massive difference as the team knows who’s doing what, when, and how. Proper process helps to clarify roles, streamline processes and inputs, anticipate risks, and creates checks and balances to ensure the project is continually aligned with the overall strategy. Project management matters here because without an orderly, easily understood process, companies risk project failure, attrition of trust in their business relationships, and resource wastage.
8. Continuous Oversight
Project management is important because it ensures a project’s progress is tracked and reported properly.
Status reporting might sound boring and unnecessary – and if everything’s going to plan, it can just feel like documentation for documentation’s sake. But continuous project oversight, ensuring that a project is tracking properly against the original plan, is critical to ensuring that a project stays on track.
When proper oversight and project reporting is in place it makes it easy to see when a project is beginning to deviate from its intended course. The earlier you’re able to spot project deviation, the easier it is to course correct.
Good project managers will regularly generate easily digestible progress or status reports as part of their stakeholder management. This enables clients or stakeholders to track the project on their own. Typically these status reports will provide insights into the work that was completed and planned, the hours utilized and how they track against those planned, how the project is tracking against milestones, risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies, and any outputs of the project as it proceeds.
This data is invaluable not only for tracking progress but helps clients gain the trust of other stakeholders in their organization, giving them easy oversight of a project’s progress. It also gives your team a simple, consistent way to maintain regular contact to build your client relationships.
9. Subject Matter Expertise
Project management is important because someone needs to be able to understand if everyone’s doing what they should.
With a few years of experience under their belt, project managers will know a little about a lot of aspects of delivering the projects they manage. They’ll build technical skills and subject matter expertise; they’ll know everything about the work that their teams execute; the platforms and systems they use, and the possibilities and limitations, and the kinds of issues that typically occur.
Having this kind of subject matter expertise means they can have intelligent and informed conversations with clients, teams, stakeholders, and suppliers. They’re well equipped to be the hub of communication on a project, ensuring that as the project flows between different teams and phases of work, nothing gets forgotten about or overlooked.
Without subject matter expertise through project management, you can find a project becomes unbalanced – the creatives ignore the limitations of technology or the developers forget the creative vision of the project. Project management keeps the team focused on the overarching vision and brings everyone together forcing the right compromises to make the project a success.
10. Managing and Learning from Success and Failure
Project management is important because it learns from the successes and failures of the past.
Project management can break bad habits and when you’re delivering projects, it’s important to not make the same mistakes twice. Project managers use retrospectives, lessons learned, or post-project reviews to consider what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what should be done differently for the next project.
This produces a valuable set of documentation that becomes a record of “dos and don’ts” going forward, enabling the organization to learn from failures and success. Without this learning, teams will often keep making the same mistakes, time and time again.
These retrospectives are great documents to use at a project kickoff meeting to remind the team about failures such as underestimating projects, and successes such as the benefits of a solid process or the importance of keeping timesheet reporting up to date!
Summary The Importance Of Project Management
Without PM, teams and clients are exposed to chaotic management, unclear objectives, a lack of resources, unrealistic planning, high risk, poor quality project deliverables, projects going over budget and delivered late.
Great project management matters because project managers with great training deliver success.
Project management creates and enables happy, motivated teams who know their work matters, so do their best work. And that project management enabled team ensures the right stuff is delivered; stuff that delivers real return on investment, and that makes happy clients.
What Do You Think?
Do you agree with this list of why project management is important? Are there any other reasons that should be included? I would love to hear what you think!